Technology is constantly changing. It helps us accomplish more tasks, use fewer resources, and increase efficiency on the farm. Innovations start with hardworking people who put everything they have into turning their ideas into solutions. At Farm Bureau, we recognize how these great ideas can help farmers and ranchers become more successful and help grow our rural communities. That’s why we, along with Farm Credit, started the Ag Innovation Challenge in 2015. Since then, we’ve awarded over $1.2 million in startup funds, and we just awarded another $100,000 to kick off the 2023 Ag Innovation Challenge.
This week, we announced the top 10 teams from across the country who will continue moving forward in the Challenge, each receiving a $10,000 prize. If these businesses are successful, their innovations will help farmers and ranchers meet the demands of the world’s growing population, care for their animals, advance sustainable practices and stretch their hard-earned dollars.
This year, many of the companies selected have the potential to help farmers and ranchers raising livestock. A team from Texas is working to develop new technology to determine which beef embryos have the best chance of success in order to help farmers raise better cattle herds. In Minnesota, a team developed a new chute to help vaccinate small pigs, reducing stress on the animal and the farmer while helping better protect against diseases. And in Massachusetts, a team developed a modular aquaculture system that can help farmers raise shellfish in areas further from the coast where it wasn’t possible before.
When it comes to raising livestock more sustainably, a team from California developed a virtual fence that will help contain cattle and encourage movement around pastures which in turn can help the growth of grasses. And a team in Hawaii developed a seaweed feed additive that can reduce the amount of methane livestock naturally produce by up to 90%.
While those teams focus on livestock, other companies’ solutions will help farmers grow crops. A team in Iowa has developed a planter designed for farmers using no-till or cover crops, which could help more farmers adopt these conservation practices. In Georgia, a company has developed a turnkey solution to help farmers grow mushrooms efficiently, expanding opportunities for farmers to grow their farms or for new farmers to get started.
And some teams have developed solutions that can help all farmers make the most of the tools and resources that keep their businesses running. A team from Nebraska has developed an online platform that will help verify the remaining life on tires used on farm equipment, giving some peace of mind to both buyers and sellers. In Illinois, a team is developing a mobile solar solution for farms that can provide much of the electricity needed on a farm and also produce ammonia and hydrogen for fertilizers. Finally, a team from Kansas has developed a solution that will allow diesel exhaust fluid to be made at the point of use, eliminating unnecessary transportation and storage of water.
What’s next for these innovative businesses? In addition to the prize money they receive, this year’s Ag Innovation Challenge semifinalists will get training from Cornell University’s SC Johnson College of Business as they work to build on their businesses. Then, all 10 teams will travel to the 2023 American Farm Bureau Convention in San Juan, Puerto Rico, where they will compete to be the winner of the Ag Innovation Challenge. I hope you will join me there to cheer them on! No matter which team wins, we hope that all of America’s farmers and ranchers benefit from hardworking entrepreneurs developing new tools and technology for our farms and ranches.
Vincent “Zippy” Duvall, a poultry, cattle and hay producer from Greene County, Georgia, is the 12th president of the American Farm Bureau Federation.